The Royal Game of Ur: Play the Oldest Board Game on Record – The New York Times

For 4,600 years, a mysterious game slept in the dust of southern Iraq, largely forgotten. The passion of a museum curator and the hunger of young Iraqis for their cultural history may bring it back.

The New York Times has a story on The Royal Game of Ur: Play the Oldest Board Game on Record. A curator at the British Museum, Irving Finkel, connected the translation of a tablet with the rules with an ancient board game of which there were copies in museums (see picture above). More recently the game has been reintroduced into Iraq so that people can rediscover their ludic heritage.

The nice thing about the NYTimes article, beside the video of Finkel who has an amazing beard, is that they include a PDF that you can download and print to learn to play the game.

The article and Finkel’s video talk highlight how influential a game can be – how a set of rules can be a meme that helps rediscover a game.

‘I saw the possibility of what could be done – so I did it’: revolutionary video game The Hobbit turns 40 | Games | The Guardian

The developer of the text-adventure game on how, at 20, she overcame 1980s misogyny to turn a Tolkien book into one of the most groundbreaking titles in the gaming canon

The Guardian has a story on Veronika Megler who developed the innovative text (and image) adventure game The Hobbit (1982), ‘I saw the possibility of what could be done – so I did it’: revolutionary video game The Hobbit turns 40. She went on to get a PhD and now is principal data scientist at Amazon Web Services!

You can now play The Hobbit on the Internet Archive.

Issues around AI text to art generators

A new art-generating AI system called Stable Diffusion can create convincing deepfakes, including of celebrities.

TechCrunch has a nice discussion of Deepfakes for all: Uncensored AI art model prompts ethics questions. The relatively sudden availability of AI text to art generators has provoked discussion on the ethics of creation and of large machine learning models. Here are some interesting links:

It is worth identifying some of the potential issues:

  • These art generating AIs may have violated copyright in scraping millions of images. Could artists whose work has been exploited sue for compensation?
  • The AIs are black boxes that are hard to query. You can’t tell if copyrighted images were used.
  • These AIs could change the economics of illustration. People who used to commission and pay for custom art for things like magazines, book covers, and posters, could start just using these AIs to save money. Just as Flickr changed the economics of photography, MidJourney could put commercial illustrators out of work.
  • We could see a lot more “original” art in situations where before people could not afford it. Perhaps poster stores could offer to generate a custom image for you and print it. Get your portrait done as a cyberpunk astronaut.
  • The AIs could reinforce visual bias in our visual literacy. Systems that always see Philosophers as old white guys with beards could limit our imagination of what could be.
  • These could be used to create pornographic deepfakes with people’s faces on them or other toxic imagery.

GPT-3 on Searle’s Chinese room argument

AI: I am an AI created by OpenAI. How can I help you today?Human: What do you think about the use of the Chinese room argument to defend the claim that a chatbot can never really understand what it is saying?AI: The Chinese room argument is a thought experiment that was first proposed by John Searle.

Blake Myers has posted a number of conversations they have had with Open AI’s GPT-3, including one titled, GPT-3 on Searle’s Chinese room argumentWhat is intriguing is that Myers has had discussions about specific philosophical issues around AI including the Chinese room argument and GPT-3 appears to have answered coherently. The transcripts or short dialogues are made available and in some cases are not edited.

I can’t help imagining how this could be used by a smart student to write a paper dialogically. One could ask questions, edit the responses, concatenate them, and write some bridging text to get a decent paper. Of course, it might be less work to just write the paper yourself.

Ask Delphi

Delphi Screen Shot

Ask Delphi is an intriguing AI that you can use to ponder ethical questions. You type in a situation and it will tell you if it is morally acceptable or not. It is apparently built not on Reddit data, but on crowdsourced data, so it shouldn’t be as easy to provoke into giving toxic answers.

In their paper, Delphi: Towards Machine Ethics and Norms they say that they have created a Commonsense Norm Bank, “a collection of 1.7M ethical judgments on diverse real-life situations.” This contributes to Delphi’s sound pronouncements, but it doesn’t seem available for others yet.

AI Weirdness has a nice story on how she fooled Delphi.

Diggin’ in the Carts: Japanese video game music history

Meet the men and women responsible for creating the most iconic tunes in video game history.

We finished up the Replaying Japan 2021 conference today. The conference was online using Zoom and Gather Town where there was a hidden easter egg with a link to Diggin’ in the Carts: Japanese video game music history, a 5 part documentary from Red Bull that is quite good. The 5 15 minute episodes are part of the first season. Not sure if there will be other seasons, but there is a related radio show with multiple seasons. The documentary episodes nicely feature the composers and experts talking about the Japanese history along with other musicians commenting on the influence of the early music which would have been heard over and over in houses with Japanese consoles.

The creator of the show is Nick Dwyer who is interviewed here about the documentary and associated radio show..

InspiroBot

I am an artificial intelligence dedicated to generating unlimited amounts of unique inspirational quotes for endless enrichment of pointless human existence.

InspiroBot is a web site with an AI bot that produces inspiring quotes and puts them on images, sometimes with hilarious results. You can generate new quotes over and over and the system, while generating them also interacts with you saying things like “You’re my favorite user!” (I wonder if I’m the only one to get this or if the InspiroBot flatters all its users.)

It also has a Mindfulness mode where is just keeps on putting up pretty pictures and playing meditative music while reading out “insprirations.” Very funny as in “Take in how your bodily orifices are part of heaven…”

While the InspiroBot may seem like toy, there is a serious side to this. First, it is powered by an AI that generates plausible inspirations (most of the time.) Second, it shows how a model of how we might use AI as a form of prompt – generating media that provokes us. Third, it shows the deep humour of current AI. Who can take it seriously.

Thanks to Chelsea for this.

What happens when pacifist soldiers search for peace in a war video game

What happens to pacifist soldiers stuck in a war video game? A history of military desertion with the aid of Battlefield V

Aeon has a very interesting 20+ minute short video on What happens when pacifist soldiers search for peace in a war video game. The video looks at how one might desert a war in a war video game. Of course, the games don’t let you, but there are work arounds.

This is the second smart video shot in game by folk associated with Total Refusal a “Digital Disarmament Movement”.

What Do Gamers Wear?

With millions of fans on social media, gamers have stepped up their game, incorporating luxury, streetwear and even cosplay into their looks.

The New York Times has a nice piece on What Do Gamers Wear? I don’t think I’ve thought much about gamer clothing, but now that we are all in our homes in front of computers for long stretches of time the professional gamer furniture, desk setup, and yes, clothing is something we can learn from. Those of us who teach are all having to learn about how to light up your workspace and record yourself too. Personally, my best purchase has been a pair of Asportuguesas mules that are comfortable and keep my feet warm around the house. They were probably meant to be outdoor shoes in Portugal, but here they work as house slippers. My point, anyway, is that we can learn from professional gamers about comfortable clothing and setups.

An Anecdoted Topography of Chance

Following a rambling conversation with his friend Robert Filliou, Daniel Spoerri one day mapped the objects lying at random on the table in his room, adding a rigorously scientific description of each. These objects subsequently evoked associations, memories and anecdotes from both the original author and his friends …

I recently bought a copy of Spoerri and friend’s artist’s book, An Anecdoted Topography of Chance. The first edition dates from 1966, but that was based on a version that passed as the catalogue for an exhibition by Spoerri in 1962. This 2016 version has a footnote to the title (in the lower right of the cover) that reads,

* Probably definitive re-anecdoted version

The work is essentially a collection of annotations to a map of the dishes and other things that were on Spoerri’s sideboard in his apartment. You start with the map, that looks like an archaeological diagram, and follow anecdotes about the items that are, in turn, commented on by the other authors. Hypertext before hypertext.

While the work seems to have been driven by the chance items on the small table, there is also an autobiographical element where these items give the authors excuses to tell about their intersecting lives.

I wonder if this would be an example of a work of art of information.